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Printed in The Daily Herald, Thu 27-Jan-2005

Heineken Regatta includes culture and youth sailors

PHILIPSBURG--The Silver Jubilee of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta promises to be spectacular, as 270 sailboats representing dozens of countries converge on the Friendly Island for three days of serious fun March 4-6.

The regatta will not only feature some of the best sailboat racing in the Caribbean, with a challenging course and unbeatable parties on shore, including fireworks, but will also highlight the accomplishments of local artisans.

"This year, for the anniversary, we want to showcase culture from both sides of the island," said Mirian Leffers-Ebbers, the director of the regatta.

For the first time regatta organisers will feature a night of local Carnival and dance bands. Brenda Wathey's Carnival troupe and the Soualouiga Jump-Up Brass Band will parade down the Great Bay beach promenade Friday, March 4.

The same night several St. Maarten bands featuring everything from reggae, jazz, soul and rock to soca will perform on one of the four stages that will be set up along the Great Bay beach to accommodate the international crowd as well as all local revellers.

The culture theme moves to Marigot Saturday evening. The fete begins with the Ponum dance performed by An La Ri La. The Ponum dance recalls the history of slavery in St. Maarten and depicts the struggle for freedom. The focus of the entertainment expands to include top bands in the Caribbean. Youth Waves and Anguilla's Mussington Brothers take to the stage in Marigot.

The regatta organisers will showcase the youth of St. Maarten at Kim Sha Beach on Sunday. Young sailors of the yacht club's Optimist programme will demonstrate their prowess in the sailing dinghy.

"These are the future regatta winners," said Leffers-Ebbers

The regatta will build to a crescendo as Jimmy Cliff of Jamaica closes the party off with fireworks.

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